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Press Row: Sox still play second fiddle

Sox still play second fiddle

One is the second team in the Second City with neither vines nor friendly confines in its history. Even now, the White Sox probably wouldn't outdraw the cuddly Cubbies if both teams played home games. You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows in Chicago.

The other is the team of secondary status, as well. The Astros play in the state where football reigns, where football terminology -- "three and out" -- once was used to describe their postseason ventures.

Now, the Sox are in the World Series, and the Astros are on the threshold, ready to shed their secondary status. But even after the White Sox put themselves in the World Series on Sunday night, they had to share their finest moment in decades with the Cubs and, for goodness sake, the Red Sox, as well.

Or so it seemed from the multitude of media that had assembled to witness the American League Championship Series. When the Chicago franchise in the American League eliminated the West Coast from October baseball, it was seen as merely the White Sox taking a step toward matching what the Red Sox did last year.

Those who fill U.S. Cellular Field for Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday undoubtedly will disagree. But to the vast audience outside the South Side, the Sox will enter the series as mere copy cats, the second team to conquer Everest or stroll on the lunar surface. The Second Sox.

Mark Herrmann of Newsday noted: "So the White Sox, whose title drought never brought them the cachet of the Cubs or the Red Sox, will be in the World Series for the first time since 1959."

"The White Sox haven't won a World Series since 1917," wrote Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, "an even longer empty stretch than Boston's, which ended last year. The only club with a longer streak resides in the same city; the Cubs haven't won a title since 1908."

And Jack Curry of the New York Times said: "The trendy fall color in baseball is white, not red," Curry wrote. "And the painful year looming over the proud organization is 1917, not 1918. But, while the magical squad is the Chicago White Sox instead of the Boston Red Sox, and the drought without a championship is 88 years, not 86, the mission has not changed: win a World Series title. Finally."

In his account of the final piece of the Sox's improbably quick disposal of the Angels in the Monday editions of the Times, Curry quoted Jerry Reinsdorf, and even he, the White Sox owner, couldn't avoid mention of the teams from the Northeast and the North Side.

"It's not quite the same as in Boston because it's a one-team town," Reinsdorf said in Anaheim. "I'm sure there are some Cubs fans who aren't happy, but it's just a wonderful thing for our city. I can't wait to get back."

Even when the Cubs weren't mentioned, their existence -- and futility -- were implied.

"A Chicago team is actually going to the World Series," Jim Caple wrote on ESPN's website.

"Yes, it's true. The White Sox, who threw a World Series more recently than they won one, are going to the series for the first time since 1959."

Yes, for those covering this postseason, it is a time to link the now to the then, a time for the grand old game to revel in its history and the strong images that have formed over the decades.

So Gordon Edes looked back in his account in the Monday editions of The Boston Globe, writing: "The last time the White Sox won the pennant, in 1959, the city's fire commissioner set off air-raid sirens, and some people thought the Russians were coming. This time, most folks have been alerted that it will be either the Astros or the Cardinals when the White Sox host the National League winner when the World Series opens Saturday in Chicago.

"The Angels, meanwhile, may be orphaned by both sides of their dual parentage, Los Angeles and Anaheim, after the shocking way they fell to the White Sox, a team that by all accounts ranks a distant second to the Cubs in the affections of Second City baseball fans but, can't mass-produce bandwagons fast enough to accommodate all the folks who now want to visit the land of Oz, whose mayor is not Richard Daley but White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen."

* * *

The Astros have no intra-city baseball rival, and the NFL's franchise in the country's fourth-largest city is winless and has an offense roughly as productive as the Angels were before their early exit. And just reaching the World Series would be an accomplishment of note. The franchise never had won a postseason series before last year. And now they need one more victory against the team that eliminated them last year to reach the World Series.

"The Astros have come too far and accomplished too much not to finish the deal now," columnist Richard Justice wrote in the Monday Houston Chronicle.

And Justice's teammate, Jose De Jesus Ortiz, told exactly how far they had come: "For the second consecutive season and third time in franchise history, the Astros are within a victory of the World Series. A year after losing two consecutive potential series-clinching games, the Astros would have to lose three potential series clinchers to waste this chance."

Other highlights:

  • Bernie Miklasz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "And the comically incompetent [plate umpire Phil] Cuzzi wasn't the reason why the Cardinals lost 2-1 at Minute Maid Park. The Cardinals didn't require special assistance in losing their third consecutive game to the Astros."

  • Joe Strauss, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "A saying hangs above Houston Astros catcher Brad Ausmus' locker. It quotes teammate Lance Berkman and reads simply: 'One-run games can go either way and most of the time they do.' But rarely have they gone like the Astros' 2-1 victory Sunday over the Cardinals in Game 4 of what for the visitors is a rapidly dissolving National League Championship Series.

  • Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News quoted Larry Walker of the Cardinals as having said, "Brad Lidge was on the mound for them. With him out there, you never feel good until you touch home plate. In the 17 years or whatever I've played in the big leagues, I have said to people, 'Brad Lidge is the best closer I've faced. Period.'"

  • Jack Curry, New York Times: "Maybe the White Sox can duplicate what the Red Sox did last year. Maybe numerology favors them. Guess what uniform number Doug Eddings, the umpire who made a disputed call that helped the White Sox prevail in Game 2, wears on his sleeve? Eighty-eight. As in, 88 years since the White Sox last won a title."

  • Tim Sullivan, San Diego Union-Tribune: "In an era of specialization and slavish adherence to predetermined pitch counts, the White Sox defied modern convention and their Toddlin' Town's long-standing history of October futility. They overwhelmed the undermanned Angels with a succession of starters who rendered relief pitching almost obsolete."

  • Jim Caple, ESPN: "Jerry Reinsdorf, the ever loveable White Sox owner who scrupulously watches the bottom line (the sparkling wine used to celebrate the city's first World Series since Eisenhower was Korbel and Asti Spumante), could have saved some travel expenses by leaving his team's bullpen in Chicago."
  • Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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